Finding your signature scent is like meeting your one true love in fragrance form, whether you have a favorite luxury perfume, are into niche brands, or even forgo fragrance altogether. But if you're tired of your go-to scent or haven't found one that feels quite like you, learning how to make perfume with essential oils may be the logical next step. Perfume oils are free of alcohol, which allows for a luxe feel that deepens throughout the day as the formula lingers on your skin, and the concentrated scents in each mean you can combine all your favorite notes—from earthy to citrus to floral—to create something truly unique. Ahead, learn exactly how to get started making perfume with essential oils, complete with insights from perfume expert Jeff Smith.
Meet the Expert
- Jeff Smith is a perfumer and founder of the small-batch perfume oil company Petite Histoire. He is based in New York City.
Choose Your Favorite Essential Oil and Scent
When choosing which essential oils to blend into your signature scent, keep in mind that citrus makes a good head note as it's potent and assertive, light and airy florals work well as heart notes, and woodsy scents have longevity that works well as the base. You can mix any combination of scents you like, but creating a mix of these three categories is a good place to start—a sample blend would be something like bergamot, jasmine, and sandalwood. Below, Smith shares more details on the different fragrance categories and which scents you might want to choose.
- Woody scents: Smith says cedarwood and labdanum are your best bets: “I like pairing these with something brighter and crisper like cognac extract, which isn’t too sweet.” Other woodsy scents include pine and sandalwood.
- Musk scents: Musk notes historically come from animals, although there are some botanical options available as well. “Ambrette is the closest to a botanical musk I’ve found,” Smith tells us. Try blending it with a white rose or a cedarwood for balance. Vetiver is another earthy musk to explore for a depth of scent.
- Citrus scents: Bergamot, lemon, and grapefruit are some citrus fragrances that are especially on trend in warmer seasons, but great for brightening any perfume. These are strong, crisp, and revitalizing.
- Herbal scents: Lavender, chamomile, and rosemary are grounding herbal essences that tend to be lighter.
- Floral scents: “Florals are the heart song of essential oils and natural raw materials, and this is where you can have the most fun,” Smith says. Rose, geranium, iris, and jasmine are some of the most popular florals, as are magnolia, peony, and ylang-ylang.
When making perfume with essential oils, you'll want to make note of the effect each ingredient may have—plant-derived essences can be very powerful, and some citrus essences (like lime oil) can cause photosensitivity. According to the International Fragrance Association (IFRA), essential oils can be sensitizing or irritating if used incorrectly, so it’s important to stick to the ratios provided in this article. Just because an ingredient is natural doesn’t mean it’s harmless, so proceed with caution.
Gather Your Materials
- One 5 mL (0.2 fl oz) rollerball bottle
- Three essential oils: head, heart, and base
- Four pipettes or glass droppers: one for each essential oil and one for the carrier oil
- An unscented carrier oil, like jojoba or almond oil
Follow a 20% Concentration Ratio
Smith recommends using no more than a 20% concentration of essential oils in your carrier oil when making perfume, just to be on the safe side. Every milliliter of liquid is roughly 20 drops with a pipette or glass dropper—so for a 5 mL bottle, you’ll need to account for 100 drops of liquid. And in case you want to recreate your scent later, don't forget to record your custom recipe.
In short, to make one perfume with essential oils, you'll need:
- 80 drops of carrier oil
- 20 drops of essential oil blend (10 drops base, five drops head, five drops heart)
If you have sensitive skin, err on the side of caution and use a lower concentration of essential oils, up to about 15%.
Mix Up Your Formula
Once you have your ingredients and materials ready, follow these five simple steps to make perfume with essential oils:
- With one of your droppers, add 80 drops of carrier oil to the perfume bottle.
- Using another dropper for each, add in 10 drops of the essential oil base notes, followed by five drops of head note, and five drops of heart notes.
- Seal the bottle and shake well (and again before each use).
- Label your creation.
- Store in a cool, dark place.
Apply Your Perfume Oil
Depending on your bottle of choice, you'll either apply your perfume by rolling it on or spraying it. Apply it behind your ear, on your collarbone, and across your chest to help diffuse the scent. Smith suggests dabbing perfume oils on the tops of your arms, and avoiding the wrists, which he says have more blood flow and evaporate the scent quicker. The nape of the neck is another spot for perfume oils to make a lasting impact. DIY perfume oils are the ultimate skin elixir, offering a silky feel, staying power, and an intensity that builds throughout the day, as opposed to a one-note fragrance.
International Fragrance Association. IFRA Standards.